Pray for Others

A friend sent a rather lengthy tale to me several decades ago, but I never learned the identity of the author. The story is not a historical account, but more like a parable to illustrate a moral, and the following is a portion of the narrative.

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A ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men survived and managed to get to a small island. Not knowing what else to do, they agreed that they had no other recourse but to pray to God.

The first thing the one man prayed for was food. The next morning, he saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the island, but the other man’s parcel of land remained barren.

However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.

After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a puppy. The next day, he found a pooch swimming to his side of the island. On the other side of the island, nothing came ashore.

Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes, more food. Each time, somehow, the food and the material for all of these came ashore.  However, the second man still had nothing. The first man did, begrudgingly, share some of his food with him.

Finally, the first man prayed for a ship, so that he and his puppy could leave the island. By morning, the wind had blown a deserted boat to his side of the island. He boarded the boat with his puppy and decided to leave the second man on the island.

He thought the other man was unworthy to receive God’s blessings, since none of his prayers had been answered.

As he was about to leave, he heard a voice from heaven booming, “Why are you leaving your companion on the island?”

“My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who prayed for them. His prayers were all unanswered and so he doesn’t deserve anything.”

“You are mistaken!” the voice rebuked him. “He had only one prayer, which I answered. If not for that, you wouldn’t have received any of my blessings.”

“What did he pray for that I should owe him anything?”

“His only prayer these past two months was that I would answer your prayers.”

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In the legend, both men initially understood their plight, realized that prayer was the only recourse available to them, and amicably began their experiment.

The reason this stood out so strongly to me is that I’ve seen the same qualities in people wherever I go. Some folks are humble, good-hearted, and want what’s best for others. They go out of their way, even to the point of depriving themselves of some benefits of life so they can reduce the hurt and pain others are experiencing. These people are obeying Jesus.

But I’ve also seen other folks who are out to get what they can for themselves. Not helping others in a material way, these self-centered people sometimes go out of their way to destroy reputations, mock others, and make life hard for their imagined enemies.

What those self-absorbed people don’t understand is, the people they are attempting to hurt could be cherished friends if allowed to be.

But let’s continue about the fable above, and perhaps we should reconsider the concept of prayer.

The blessings we receive might not always be the fruit of our prayers alone, but are perhaps benefits from others praying for us. I can write a book about dangerous and life-threatening situations people have faced and how they escaped or survived, but I’ll tell about only one.

My father was in the USS Yorktown during WWII, heading for what would erupt into the Battle of Midway. A terrible fear gripped dad’s mind and he couldn’t do his job. Five thousand miles away, mom had a powerful burden to pray for him … not even knowing where in the world he was. After an hour of intense prayer, mom stopped praying, and the fear suddenly lifted from dad’s mind. Unknown to dad, God answered mom’s prayers.

I encourage all you who are reading this blog: when someone comes to your mind, pray for him or her. Pray however you feel like it, but pray. You may be the “ministering angel” God uses to rescue or help someone.

Happy New Year, Friends

On December 31, 2020, Carol and I spent a quiet New Year’s celebration together. It was relaxing because from 2011 through 2020, we had been home on December 31 only four times. We’d been in California on New Year’s Eve five times and in Florida once. And this past New Year’s Eve we were in New Mexico.

Several friends asked, “Can’t sit still, can ya?” My response is normally, “You find no moss under my wheels.” And we’ve driven over 29,000 miles in 2021.

It’s well-known by our families, friends, and those who read my articles that we enjoy living in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. All cities, towns, and villages have their problems, but we’ve found this town to be one of the more pleasant places we’ve lived. With that in mind, why do we “hit the road” so often?

One quick answer is: our five kids live in five different states, and my siblings are spread out from the West Coast to the East Coast. We enjoy visiting them. We also have the privilege of preaching and teaching in our travels.

A second answer is: we enjoy seeing God’s creation first-hand. Seeing nature in books and on video is great. But nothing beats driving through the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, seeing the Giant Redwoods in northern California, the amazing Oregon Coast, Puget Sound in the great northwest, the red granite beaches of Maine, the snow-white beaches of Siesta Beach in Florida, seeing Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks, and HUNDREDS of other places.

We also enjoy seeing the marvels of man’s creation, such as Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, the 605-foot-tall Space Needle in Seattle, and the 630-foot-tall Arch in St. Louis.

Historic sites such as the Yorktown, Virginia battlefield, the Gettysburg Battlefield, and Pearl Harbor cause me to stop and contemplate how different life might have been if the political and military tide had turned the other way.

The third answer is: we’re getting older, and some day our travel days will be over. So let’s travel while we can.

As we travel, we take thousands of pictures to document where we’ve been and what we saw. You see many of them in these blogs. We’re grateful for digital photography, because that’s a lot less expensive than the film we bought in the past. We often get our pictures out (on computer or another device) and through our memory, we enjoy those trips again.

The ability to remember amazes me. When I get to heaven, I want to ask God how He created memory. But I think He’ll simply say: That’s My secret.

As I mentally gaze on our blessings this past year, I’m fully aware that many people have died, others have gotten sick, many have lost homes and businesses due to pandemics, government mistakes, the natural flow of economics, and natural disasters. But sickness, wars, governmental problems, business failures, and all the other problems and catastrophes have been going on since shortly after Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden. As we read in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”

The emphasis is: there’s nothing new under the sun. We have modern means of traveling, conducting war, studying, and getting work done, but the essence of life hasn’t changed throughout man’s history. Sickness, death, and all other problems related to life on earth will continue until Jesus stops it. And He will return one day.

But if He doesn’t return soon enough, I will die too. I don’t know by what means, but I will die, and the thought doesn’t bother me at all. Why not? Because that’s life.

In the same concept as midnight on December 31 starts a new year, or a baby being born starts a new life, when my traveling days are over and I breathe my last on earth, I will start a new year, a brand-new life in heaven. It’s part of the Christian’s cycle of life.

However, as badly as I feel for those who have been hurt by various events on earth, I feel worse for those who die while not believing in Jesus Christ. We can start over after a catastrophe on earth, but when we die without faith in Jesus, there is no recovery. Think about it.

It’s all about Jesus

December 25 was a special day of the year. Having said that, you might expect this to be about Christmas. But have you ever … wait a minute. Let’s start somewhere else.

 Joy to the World the Lord Has Come! Angels We Have Heard on High…. Those songs, and others, were prompted by the message given to the shepherds out in the fields with their sheep. Silent Night, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, and many others, were written about a special baby that was born. We Three Kings, and others, were written about several Persian noblemen who visited Joseph, Mary, and the toddler Jesus about a year later in their home.

Who was this famous baby that changed the world? Or, since babies don’t change society, the question should be, Who is this Person that changed the world?

The Book of Matthew starts with Jesus’ genealogy, then verse 18 begins the detailed account of his birth. Mark starts with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Luke starts with the history behind Luke’s Gospel, then verse 26 begins a detailed account of Jesus’ birth. But the Gospel of John starts prior to the beginning of mankind and prior to the creation of the earth.

John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 3 tells us the Word created everything in the universe. Verse 14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

John 1:2 bounces me back to Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” By this we know that the Word, Jesus, Who had no beginning, created the cosmos.

Okay, now we can think about Christmas, December 25. Was Jesus born at this time of year? Probably not, but that’s another story and don’t worry about it. We’re celebrating the birth of the Person mentioned in John 1:1 and Genesis 1:1 – God in human form. He is the greatest dichotomy of all time. For the first – and only – time in history, a real God was born as a human.

The Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and many others developed myths, legends, and fantasies of gods creating themselves, gods being born, gods squabbling over territorial rights, fighting and killing each other, and a whole lot more. Their pantheons of gods were memorials of either great imaginations, or possibly of demon activity within mankind’s history.

Many citizens of those nations worshipped their gods out of fear, and offered sacrifices, including their own children, to those gods to appease their anger and to gain good business ventures and harvests.

But Genesis 1:1, John 1:1, and the remainder of Scripture tell a different story. The one and only God did not create Himself, because He never had a beginning. He is The Great I Am. God didn’t come to squabble or fight with anyone. Instead, He came to give life, redeem us, give peace, forgiveness, security, and a lot more. It would cost Him His natural life to accomplish it. But He came prepared with that in mind, and nothing would deter Him from fulfilling His mission.

The angels told Mary to name the baby Jehoshua, which means Jehovah is salvation. Through time, it was shortened to Joshua, and through Latin influence, we eventually have the name Jesus.

Have you ever thought about all that? That’s what Christmas is all about. (Christ-mas: a mass or meeting about Christ.)

“In the little village of Bethlehem, there lay a Child one day, and the sky was bright with a holy light, o’er the place where Jesus lay.

“’Twas a humble birthplace, but O how much God gave to us that day, from the manger bed what a path was led, what a perfect, holy way.

“Alleluia! How the angels sang. Alleluia, how it rang! And the sky was bright with a holy light, ‘twas the birthday of a King.”  By William Harold Neidlinger; 1890.

Display your lights, give gifts, share your meals – either scrumptious or meager. Listen to concerts, sing the Hallelujah Chorus and Christmas carols. Visit family, renew friendships.

But always keep in mind why Jesus came. Even as a baby, He was God. But He came to grow up and give His life for us so that we may have eternal life with Him in heaven.

The wonderful greeting of Merry Christmas is joyful, beautiful, and fitting one month out of the year, but Praising God and blessing people is fitting all year long. Be kind to one another and help others in this difficult time in history.

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